21 March 2007

Common Assassin Bug - Pristhesancus plagipennis

It may sound strange but the first time I saw these little orange bugs I laughed. They looked just like little moving boiled lollies as they scurried to hide from me.

I thought they were ants at first because of their size and also I suppose because I had never seen anything like them before. It wasn't until I really looked at them up on my computer monitor that I realised they definitely weren't ants.

What amused me was they way they scurried away to hide. One second they were there and then they weren't.

All that could be seen were long legs which weren't so easy to hide. (Look to the right of the photo.)

I tried picking up the leaf and turning it so the creatures could be seen, but they could play that game just as easily as I, and kept well away from sight. The only decent photo I ended up with was the first one - when we were all rather surprised at the sight of the other.

I usually walk around my garden twice daily, morning and evening, noticing plants, how they look, where they might need cutting back, which colours are working well together, that sort of thing and thought I was reasonably observant, but the number of insects I've been noticing lately tell me I couldn't have been!

How could I not have seen these chaps before?

The plant they are hiding on is a weed, Solanum nigrum; I posted its beautiful little white flowers in an earlier blog. I've noticed it seems to be well beloved by insects. I've been watching one plant being eaten by munching bugs for some time, then ladybird beetles moved in and took care of some of them. It's been fascinating. On this particular bush though the assassin bugs have had it to themselves.

As they grow they change into their adult versions shown here. This one is on a Paspalum flower head and looks quite formidable.

The last one is hiding on a Syzgium waiting for insects to come in to eat the fruits. This particular tree has had a constant stream of visitors. A funny little weevily thingie has been there in great numbers, plus ants and beetles, and of course the assassin bugs, lying in wait.
One particular beetle, which I have only seen once in spite of diligent almost daily searches, was the exact same colour as the fruit and was photographed systematically munching the entire fruit, slice by slice. Now when I see a fruit eaten in that way I immediately think of her.

There is a lot of information on the net about these bugs. One place to see the different stages of growth is at the site below, but if you type into your search engine the name of the bugs you will have a huge choice of sites.

Try here for information

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